Filled with gratitude

Happy New Year! It is that wonderful time of year when we make promises to ourselves to be better in some way. Rather than write a column about the latest research or professional issue, I decided to relate to you a recent experience that had a profound effect on me.

BY JOANN R. GURENLIAN, RDH, PhD

Happy New Year! It is that wonderful time of year when we make promises to ourselves to be better in some way. Rather than write a column about the latest research or professional issue, I decided to relate to you a recent experience that had a profound effect on me.

While attending the 3rd North American/Global Dental Hygiene Research Conference held in Bethesda, Maryland, in October, Dr. Ann Spolarich gave an invocation at the gala dinner. During that event, Dr. Spolarich noted that there is a growing body of research that demonstrates that people who are experiencing a chronic or terminal illness and who also have a positive attitude have improved health outcomes. She challenged us to identify something for which we are grateful every day for one week. These moments of gratitude can be small or of great magnitude: a nice meal, a visit from a friend, a pedicure, a moment to relax, good health, good marriage, fulfilling job, etc. This project is designed to be assessed in one week to see if it has made a difference in some way, and to help us gain perspective on our lives.

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After the research conference, I noticed that some of my dental hygiene colleagues were posting on their Facebook pages that they were doing this challenge and seeing some wonderful rewards. While we all agreed not to share what our gratitude moment of the day was, we were seeing a renewed spirit and energy.

On a personal note, since having cancer, I do wake up every day and say a prayer of thanks for one more day with my family, friends, and colleagues. However, there are those moments when the days are chaotic, when I end the day feeling as though little was accomplished, the house is a mess, I need to lose weight, having sat at my desk all day without getting any exercise or even seeing what the weather was like outside; you get the picture. Life happens, and it becomes quite overwhelming at times. However, taking just a few minutes to identify a moment of gratitude changes the landscape of the day. I realize that no one has died from the dust that is on my dining room sideboard, there is food in the house, and we are nourished, and, all in all, I am probably one of the luckiest people on earth. How great is that?

Given that we all can benefit by this simple exercise, I would like to challenge you to find a grateful moment every day for 2015! Throw away those New Year's resolutions that never get fulfilled. This activity is one that requires no strain or pain. You can start today and have a year's worth of moments that remind you that you are important and that the world is a special place.

Below are some of my gratitude moments. I am grateful for:

• My family, Tom, T.J., Laura, and Adam, who give me hope, strength, and inspiration.

• My dear friends, who allow me to be myself and accept me for who I am.

• The faculty, staff, and students at Idaho State University who keep me thinking and learning.

• My colleagues in health care who show me that we can make a difference one patient and community at a time.

• Mark Hartley, who gives me the opportunity to communicate professional issues with you every month (and he is easy to work with too).

• Jodi Picoult's book "Leaving Time" - what a great read!

• UGG boots and slippers, because they are so comfortable.

• Chocolate (need I say more?)!

See how easy this is? I have been thinking of a daily moment of gratitude since the middle of October. Sometimes my thought makes me laugh or feel warm-hearted, thrilled, or filled with anticipation, but always the thought makes me feel good. A little good goes a long way. May 2015 be a year of wonderful moments for you both personally and professionally! RDH


JOANN R. GURENLIAN, RDH, PhD, is president of Gurenlian & Associates, and provides consulting services and continuing education programs to health-care providers. She is a professor and dental hygiene graduate program director at Idaho State University, and president of the International Federation of Dental Hygienists.

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